Practical Criticism on the Tamer and Hawk poem
Tom Gunn’s Tamer and Hawk is an extended metaphor depicting a powerful, strong, almighty, wild bird of prey (a metaphor for Gunn) being controlled by a seemingly inferior body (a human) – his true love. It depicts an image of a bird and its master (with the use of indirect personification). It tells a story of Gunn’s adoration of his ‘Tamer’ and his strong desire to entice his love. It is an effective metaphor because as the poem continues the danger and violence becomes more prominent, especially at the end of the poem. There are three main theme to the poem; love (“To fly for you and show”), loyalty (“For you I fear to lose”) and devotion (“You seeled me with your love”). The first stanza explains how the Hawk is happy to be domesticated by this person, as he expresses no objection to his situation. He even wants to show off his capabilities in a performance to his Tamer in the hope of impressing him. Gunn idolises his Tamer by portraying him as kind (“But gentled at your hands”) and being gently powerful (“I thought I was so tough”) – with the emphases on the second ‘I’ trying to show the Tamer is more powerful than himself, as well as the quotation “Upon your wrist” which depicts the Tamer as somewhat of a godly figure who is in control of another life. Also, the quick rhyme scheme: A, B, A, C, C, B, along with the lack of any punctuation and the fast rhythm of the stanza (without any assonance or alliteration or sibilance), due to the Iambic trimeter, emphasises the Hawk’s effort he is putting into his performance, and hence trying to impress his Tamer. This is cemented by Gunn’s use of the phrase “Cannot be quick enough” which implies that his pace is still not enough to please his lover. The second stanza could be seen as a continuation of the first stanza, the themes are interrelating and also the ideas are common. It evinces the Hawk still not being able to fly away, as he is too in love with his Tamer...
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